There's a rule of business known by leaders far and wide: "To succeed, you have to take risks."
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Leaders may repeat the mantra often, but many still fall into the trap of avoiding risks because of the sting of prior failures and the fear of facing new ones. Sometimes, a leader thinks they see a failure coming – even before taking the risk – so they attempt to avoid the situation altogether. Instead of taking a calculated risk, they don't take one at all. Not only is a lack of risk-taking detrimental to business, but also the anxiety over possible, unrealized failure can be debilitating for leaders. It can eat away at valuable rest periods and even reduce quality of life.
Here are four steps to minimize and overcome your fear and capitalize on risk-taking:
1. Visualize the Worst-Case Scenario
The most avoided step in the risk-taking process – visualizing the absolute worst outcome – can be frightening. But remember: You will get through the situation and move on to the next step. Instead of focusing on the potential failure, contemplate how your life would look as you recover, and use the experience to find your next moment of success.
After you set your focus on the outcome instead of the situation, you'll find yourself thinking, "Is that all?" Soon, you'll realize that your preemptive fear was over-exaggerated and that what you learned was worth the exercise.
2. Make a Written Plan
After visualizing the scenario, make a list of detailed steps around how you will react to different outcomes. This is a crucial step in the process, especially if you are losing sleep over your fear. Sometimes, the mind has trouble falling asleep if the future is uncertain, leading to "spinning thoughts" while your brain panics pondering "what if" scenarios.
Instead of letting your mind race with anxiety, get up and put a plan down on paper. Then, assign due dates to each of the steps in your plan. Once your mind is able to grasp the specifics and drop the up-in-the-air fear scenarios, you'll rest easier.
3. Call Trusted Friends
Everyone needs a sounding board – especially leaders. One method for overcoming fear is to share your feelings with those close to you. Get feedback from trusted, positive friends. Let them counsel you, and then make adjustments where needed based on their advice. We all have blind spots in our perspectives, which can contribute to our fear and worry. To ensure those blind spots don't affect your plans or objectives, it's important to rely on a team.
4. Don't Stop Taking Care of Yourself
In anxious or fearful times, it can be easy to neglect some of your basic physical needs. It is imperative, however, that you don't let this happen. A self-care routine will help fight off some of the debilitating effects of fear. Focus on getting up on time and getting your day started with positive accomplishments. Set the tone for your day by making time for self-reflection and appreciation. Work out, socialize with friends and family, eat healthy foods, and get some sunshine. Make yourself a top priority.
One final tip (and this is a personal recommendation): Take a lesson from Wim Hof, also known as "The Ice Man": Take the occasional cold shower or long walk in cold weather. Many experts claim the cold has a therapeutic effect, which can help you put things in perspective and boost your overall mood.
If you commit to approaching risk with a plan of action, you can effectively reduce the amount of fear in your life, leading to better decision-making and more rewarding self-care.
Don't let life get you down before it even begins.